Sunday, July 12, 2015

Monsters, Zombies + Addicts by Gwendolyn Zepeda

The first thing that attracted me to Gwendolyn Zepeda’s first published book was the hilarious title, To The Last Man I Slept With and All the Jerks Just Like Him. (Houston: Arte Publico Press, 2004) It’s a great collection of short stories that are candid and comical observations on life.

I’ve always loved the titles of her books. When she was recently named Poet Laureate for the City of Houston she published Falling in Love with Fellow Prisoners, (Houston: Arte Publico Press, 2013) another great title. In her second book of poetry, Monsters, Zombies + Addicts (Houston: Arte Publico Press, 2015) Zepeda has written an exceptional collection of musings about life in the big city.
She writes about the mundane activities of life but adds an interesting point of view to things as common as going to the dentist in “New Teeth.” She shares her experiences as a working woman and the challenges we sometimes face with our identity as a woman in a male dominated profession. We also get to know more her Aunt Sylvia, whom Zepeda obviously loved very much.

The “Ringmaster’s Daughter” is written in a wonderful lyrical verse that is both intriguing and haunting. I had to read it a few times and it left me wondering who is the true Ringmaster of her poem. This was one of my top favorites.

Her “No Title” poem about the dog in a yard, dumb, drooling and flea bit, is a sad contemplation on life.  The last two lines evoke so many thoughts and feelings, “blocked by fences that nobody else can see.”  This reminded me of the saying that sometimes we are our own biggest obstacle.

Houston is a big city and a lot of things happen. We encounter so many different characters day to day and sad experiences. A few years ago a co-worker who worked in the office across the hall from me didn’t come to work. Later in the day his boss got a call from his wife that he had died. We learned that he’d taken his own life. “Sad Shock” reminded me of that experience and how we all felt that day and it made me wonder how many people have had a similar experience.

The book ends with “Aunt Sylvia’ almost as if Zepeda put it there as a tribute to her beloved aunt. It made me laugh out loud when I read it because I fondly remembered Westheimer near Montrose.

My daughter went to middle school down the street from that main drag area and I’ve told her, “Kids used to cruise this street on the weekends.” She looks around unimpressed, with no idea why we would have done that. Now trendy restaurants line the street right in that area where kids used to hang out of their cars having conversations with kids in other cars that passed them, blocking the street and slowing down traffic to a crawl. I think the city finally cracked down and prohibited that past time. It was the place to go and see “marvelous things” like Zepeda says. It was a rite of passage for many Houstonians in the 80s. It was part of our city's history.

That is why I love Monsters, Zombies + Addicts. It reminds me of Houston and all of our eclectic experiences, from going to the dentist, to our neighborhoods with flea bitten dogs, our work place where we struggle with our feminine identity and to the memories of growing up here. It covers all of this and more. I can't wait to see what else Zepeda has in store for us in her next book.


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